BOISE — Early in the season, Boise State’s defense was getting a lot of credit for the Broncos’ success, especially for their second half efforts.
Now the Broncos are starting to get takeaways, as well.
Boise State’s defense had three fumble recoveries and an interception during the 59-37 win against Hawaii on Friday, with all three fumble recoveries resulting in Boise State touchdowns.
“You get that many turnovers on the defensive side, regardless of their offense and points they put on the board, you're going to win the game,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin. “The way they attacked the football tonight, that was impressive.”
Kekoa Nawahine, Kekaula Kaniho and Riley Whimpey all had fumble recoveries for the Broncos in the first half as Boise State used that to build separation from the Rainbow Warriors.
Boise State came into the game with six turnovers in its first five games, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions. That put the Broncos at 90th in the nation entering Saturday’s game.
In just one half of play, they increased that total by 50 percent. They turned those turnovers into 21 points.
“Our goal every week is to get three takeaways,” said Kaniho. “So I think we did a good job of doing that tonight. I wish we would have got more interceptions with the amount of times they put the ball in the air, but it was really good for us to attack the ball and be physical on our finishes, because we knew that they would catch some passes in front of us.”
Kaniho had the first turnover in the first quarter, forcing the fumble and getting the recovery after a reception by Cedric Byrd. It was the second turnover this season for Kaniho, the Hawaii native playing against his home state team. Kaniho also had an interception against Air Force.
Six plays later, quarterback Hank Bachmeier found John Hightower open near the end zone, and connected for a 26-yard touchdown pass to put the Broncos ahead 14-0.
Boise State added two fumble recoveries on back-to-back Hawaii drives in the second quarter, both of which gave the Broncos the ball inside the Hawaii 30-yard line.
The first came when Curtis Weaver stripped the ball out of the hands of Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald before he got the pass off. The ball popped out awkwardly and landed about 11 yards in front of McDonald, where Nawahine picked it up.
After a review, the call stood and Boise State got the ball at the Warrior 23.
“When I saw the replay, I said it was a pass, but the ref gave it to us,” Weaver said.
It was the fourth turnover by Nawahine this season, who had a fumble recovery in the season-opener against Florida State, then added interceptions in wins against Marshall and UNLV. The senior from Rocky Mountain High now has 10 turnovers in his Boise State career.
Two plays later, Chase Cord connected with Khalil Shakir for a 33-yard touchdown.
Benton Wickersham forced a fumble on the first play of Hawaii’s next drive and Whimpey recovered it at the 29, setting up a 13-yard run by Robert Mahone to put Boise State ahead 31-7.
Khafari Buffalo added an interception on the last play of the game, Boise State’s fourth pick of the year. Last year, the Broncos finished with seven interceptions, tied for the fewest in program history. With the regular season hitting its halfway point after Saturday’s game, Boise State is on pace for a similar number this season.